Nepali Times
Guest Column
Hyper Empire and Hindu Kingdom


Whatever the ultimate outcome of the current conflict in Nepal, the royal takeover is beginning to bring the end closer by forcing the major protagonists in the decade-long conflict to come out in the open and put their money where their mouth has been.

The moral majority led by Denmark, Switzerland and other donors have already cut off aid to force a return back to the 31 January status quo. Since the king shows no signs of standing down, there are strong indications that the Europeans will start taking the next morally logical step of shutting their missions en masse in. Besides sending serious geopolitical tremors, white flight on such a scale is bound to further blight this country, or what remains of it. The February fuss has a telling revelation: the projects of development and democracy are less about helping the poor people and more about shaping the ideological and strategic behaviour of recipient states.

Meanwhile, on the right flank, India, America, and Britain have admitted to being a coalition of the willing with India as the lead agent to challenge the monarch. The tripartite league not only portends the future, but also sheds critical light on South Asia's past. There is perhaps a good reason why the hyper empire and its powerful ideological instruments such as the BBC, Amnesty, the UN and the various Human Rights Watches continue to make much righteous noises on Tibet even as they maintained a complicit silence over much more egregious annexations and human abuses in Kashmir, Sikkim and Bhutan.

Whether out of fear or favor, moral ambiguity characterized most of the actors, both internal and external, during the most vicious atrocities of the last decade. While the hyper empire (principally structured around US arms, Anglo-Saxon body, Judeo-Christian soul, and a global network of client states) and its ideological tools sought to make cause celebre out of a few events such as the Doromba killings, there was by and large a studied silence on the general process of forced displacements, coerced recruitments, mass abductions, torture, cultural cleansing, maiming, killings and the wanton degradation of human dignity among the peasantry and rural folks.

The empire expressed its righteous ire only when the conflict adversely impacted the fortunes of a special class that echoes and reaffirms the sponsoring ideology and authority of the hyper empire at the local level, but maintains a rewarded silence on the contradictions of the same clientalist regime at the international level. What was absent was an unequivocal critique of violence and coercion irrespective of whether it was hurting the voiceless peasants, political cadres, capital interests, or the articulate 'civil' classes.

Is there a compensatory overdrive to buffer an boutique revolution in the Himalayan hemp fields to make up for all the moral bankruptcy in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Rwanda, Palestine, Guantanamo, Zimbabwe, Darfur and such other locations of human suffering and political duplicity? In other words, an exotic utopia here that could be voyeuristically indulge, but never personally suffered, the same way we engage with the artistic productions of Quentin Tarantino.

Universalised values of human rights, justice, equality, sovereignty and democracy are not worth the paper they are written on if their application is selective to serve self interests.

Hypocrisy and double-standards are the graveyard of all high ideals, and offer no moral high-ground even to the 'best' or the 'biggest' democratic regimes.

Like the cheap cannabis of the 1960s down in Freak Street, Nepal continues to be a budget destination for all those in search of quick nirvana and a bully pulpit at a steep discount. In Shangri-la, one is free to preach a brand of morality that one does not practice at home or anywhere else in the world. Therefore, if it is the considered judgment of the interlocutors that the Nepali state does not enjoy the sovereign rights to defend itself and its citizens with adequate means, then all they have to do is paint this as a rogue state in league with the axis of evil and the marines will do a quick job of 'regime change.'

Alternatively, the empire could allow the kingdom to solve the crisis and arrive at a sustainable internal equilibrium. These are stark but the only pragmatic options for a speedy end to the current suffering. What the majority of the Nepali people desire is a quick liberation from violence and fear, it does not matter at this stage who is the hero inside the shining armor is. Diplomatic thumb-twiddling or the fancy to play the morally blind killing-field umpire whose sole goal is to keep the macabre game going will only prolong the horrors for real people in the name of abstract, discretionary ideals.

As currently deployed, the Western human rights discourse - a product of the Cold War - is aimed at undermining the powers of the erstwhile Soviet and other disaffected states to regulate the lives of their citizens living in conditions of relative order.

In the context of Nepal's total breakdown of law and order, what is needed at this point is a genuine concern for human life in its physical sense-universalised human rights will have meaning only when the state can ensure the basic condition for the material and biological integrity of the human subject. Even though these states are often portrayed as antithetical to human rights, the irony is that only stable, well-functioning states can ensure the rights - whether they be civil, human, or economic-of their citizens.

If it was any other way, the stateless societies in Somalia and Congo would have been considered utopias by now.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)